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Mind Mapping Step by Step – A Users Guide

How Does One Use a Mind Map? TIPS AND SUGGESTIONS

Buzan’s Mind Maps have seven key features, namely, Organization, keywords, Association, Clustering, Visual Memory, Outstandingness, and Conscious Involvement.

Here are some guidelines to creating your own personal Mind Map. First, draw an image of your central key idea in the middle of a blank piece of paper. Be sure to use 3 colors for this. You can use images, codes, symbols, and dimensions throughout your Mind Map (when necessary.) From the central key idea, you may radially link supporting ideas – be sure that these are written with upper or lower case letters on their own line branching out from the central key idea. Central lines radiating from the central key idea must be thicker yet flowing naturally to the supporting ideas where the lines become thinner. Each line should allow enough space to print the supporting idea allocated for that space. Colors are important though you may use them to highlight certain ideas as you wish – you are free to create your own color code as you make your mind map. The important thing to remember is that you have to create associations as you create the mind map: which color represents this concept? Does using upper-case letters create focus on a supporting idea? Does one ‘tree branch’ of radiating lines display a clear relationship or set of ideas?

Note-taking when listening to a speaker is different from note-taking when reading a document or article. But the commonality between them is that you will have to find out what the main theme is first, then jot down the keywords of that main theme in the middle of the paper.

Keeping an ear or eye out for the sub-themes comes next. These sub-themes may also be indicated through keywords, then linked to the main theme by a line. Good keywords are generally nouns or action words that bring back strong recall of the concept and its meaning. Supporting details may be inked in, in areas near the sub-themes they are related to, then lines are drawn from these supporting details to connect to the sub-themes. You may use polygons of any sort (not just circles) drawn around the main theme and then the sub-themes to set them apart from one another. You could also try numbering each ‘tree branch’ of information to further organize your thoughts.

You will find as you go along that you will be able to see, with one glance, what the dominant ideas of the speech or article are. But do not think that the ideas have to be confined to what the contents of the speech or article are. You may opt to include any insights you have that cropped up in the course of the study or work session. The advantage of this note-taking method is that it is tailored to the needs of every person since each person has a unique way of organizing his ideas. One person’s mind map may be gibberish to another person.

Color coding when mind mapping can be done in three ways: by the theme of your mind map, by the ‘tree branch’ or area of relationship, by the source of your information, and by keywords. Color coding by theme acts like a traffic sign informing you what that part of your mind map is generally about. Color coding each ‘tree branch’ denotes a specific relationship among ideas included in the tree branch. Color coding each area of the mind map based on where you derived the information also works well – this is particularly applicable to group work. Color coding keywords helps you zero in on important concepts without disregarding minor details.

Color coding becomes easier if you have the right tools. These could be colored pens, such as fine point felt-tipped markers, colored pencils (though these may provide less clarity), watercolor pencils, watercolor brushes, and perhaps even paper with different background hues. Some people prefer to sketch their mind maps with sharpened graphite pencils first then color in the appropriate areas later on. This technique is convenient when you want to erase an idea or even a whole ‘tree branch’ from the paper.

You can create a mind map using plain paper and differently-colored pens. Or you can opt to use the different kinds of mind-mapping computer software programs that are out on the market. Some people might find it easier to take linear notes at the start, then translate these notes into mind maps later on – it’s up to you because mind mapping lends itself to each person’s unique note-taking style.

When you are creating the mind map, it is advisable to keep your writing small since you will be attempting to place all your related ideas on one page.

Remember that, essentially, there is no limit to how vast your mind map can become. A sub-topic in the first mind map you create may become the central key idea in the next mind map you draw. This is the beauty of mind mapping – relationships may go on as extensively as they exist in your mind.

Okay, so you drew a mind map, then put it away for awhile. Then you took it out again and looked at it. Does it make sense to you? It should – because the symbols and relationships which you integrated into it are those which have a personal meaning to you. If you used keywords for your central key idea and the sub-themes, all the better. Keywords are easier to remember than whole sentences (which is why mind maps are believed to be superior to linear note-taking.) Good keywords would be those which help you to recall meaning more satisfactorily.

It is possible that in the course of drawing your mind map, you may have repeated a keyword twice or several times. Examine this closely, then decide whether you should use that keyword as the central key idea for a new mind map. It is possible that the keyword may generate a whole host of related ideas which can be organized in the following mind maps. If you are using your mind map to brainstorm solutions to a problem, repeating a keyword is a positive sign – it could mean that you have discovered an appropriate solution.

It is important that you only place one keyword or term on one line because every word and image can make you think of more than one possible association. If you list just one keyword or term, it is possible to generate a lot of ideas from it. It is also easier to remember.

During the course of drawing your mind map, it is possible that you will run out of details to add to it. Don’t panic – just add some lines (to the ‘tree branch’ of related ideas) that do not contain any information at all. You could take a break during this time, perhaps do something else for awhile, then come back to the task again. You may find that new associations grow in your mind when you do this; you could jot them down later in those blank lines. By the way, there is no such thing as ‘stupid’ ideas when you are free-associating. An idea that seems inane or dumb when you first think of it may seem like a truly creative, great concept when you examine it later on.

Another thing that could happen is that you could think of a really fantastic idea at inopportune times (like when you’re taking a shower or driving your car.) It helps to have a planner you could jot down such ideas in, to transfer them to your mind map later on. What happened is that your mind was thinking of your mind map even when you were doing something else – then it came up with that association which you simply had to write down. If paper is not at hand, try to keep that ground-breaking thought in your mind until you can get to your mind map. You really need to put down your brainchild on paper though – think of it as a brain purge. Otherwise, your conscience will nag you that you have thoughts which need to be jotted down.

How to Read Someone Else’s Mind Map

If you were to be given someone else’s mind map, you might be confused by the sheer amount of words on it. How does one read a mind map? Well, this is where the use of symbols, colors and conventions proves useful. The middle of the page will contain a central key idea that is usually blocked off by a circle or other polygon. This central key idea (if it follows the Buzan ideal) will use 3 colors. Look around the central key idea and you will find other sets of keywords that may also have been set apart from the rest of the mind map through such conventions as use of different colors or other shapes. These are the sub-topics of the central key idea – you know this is so because they should be connected to the central key idea through lines (preferably relatively thick ones). Then look for other lines which are connected to these sub-topics – again, if they follow Buzan’s rules, the words connected to these lines are sub-sub-topics because they are linked by thinner lines than the sub-topics. Buzan advocates that the flow of the lines and keywords should be counter-clockwise – which is why some people opt to put numbers at each ‘tree branch’ so that people will know which sub-topic comes first.

By the way, it is not recommended that you show your unfinished mind maps to other people – most likely they will not understand the flow of your thinking and will just get confused as to where your thoughts are headed. Show the finished results of the work, not the unfinished mind maps.

The Need to Practice

At the start, mind mapping requires practice. But those who master the art of mind mapping eventually find that more information is absorbed and recalled in proportion to the effort required to do the mind mapping.

Buzan advocates that people trying out mind mapping should do up to 100 mind maps before they can become comfortable with the tool – whether it is applied for note-taking, planning, organizing, or simply jotting down one’s thoughts and feelings. One persistent user of hand-drawn mind maps believes that it is advantageous for mind mappers to create at least one mind map every month regularly. He feels that mind mappers will eventually want to use larger and larger pieces of paper as the relationships between their ideas expand.

The Importance of Colors

When you communicate, only 7% of the meaning is conveyed to the brain through words. Your mind relies more on visual cues. So, visual elements like shape and color enhance the process of communication. Color definitely has an impact on mood and behavior.

Usually, line-by-line note-taking only relies on two colors – black (the color of your pen) and white (the color of your paper.) The use of these two colors in combination has a hypnotic effect on the viewer – which may explain why so many people fall asleep reading or are lulled into a trance-like state in a classroom. The writer Ronald E. Green, in “The Persuasive Properties of Color” revealed that colorful visual aids make readers more eager to read and willing to participate by an amazing 80%. Companies that stress color as a key feature in their products really know something then – not only can they sell their products better but color really works at imparting knowledge better. Jan V. White of “Color for Impact” noted that presentations which incorporate color are actually 60% more simple to view. In addition, White said such presentations cut down on search time by 80%, boost attention span by 82%, and enhance comprehension by 70%. White further stressed that color in presentations improves recall by 60% and brand recognition by 70%.

If you have ever looked at the weather map in the newspaper or displayed on the evening news on TV, you will notice that it is colored in different parts to show the differences in the weather in various parts of the country. It is definitely easier to look at and understand than a black and white map, isn’t it? This is an application of the same principle in mind mapping: color is the lifeblood of visual aids.

When you make a presentation, such as a mind map, your audience will form a lasting impression within the first 90 seconds. In that time, color will help determine by 60% whether your audience will reject what you have to say or be willing to accept the content. If you use mostly loud colors, it makes you seem like you are trying too hard – thus undermining your authority as a speaker. Having poor color sense gives the impression that your IQ is much lower than it really is. Thus, if you are going to present your mind map to a group, make sure that it is both intelligent and attractive to look at.

Are Hand-Drawn Mind Maps Superior to Computerized Ones?

This boils down to personal preferences. Some people swear by hand-drawn mind maps; others believe computerized mind maps made with the help of specialized software are better. One user engaged in business still likes to use hand-drawn mind maps but opts for the computer software version when he has to create a mind map that will be shared with other people, or has to be continuously amended and updated over time. Computer software mind map programs are called ‘graphical information organizers’, or software that falls under ‘graphical organization of information networks.’

Tony Buzan himself at first did not consider most mind mapping software out in the market to be part of the mind mapping technique – he devoted himself to the application of mind maps for learning (such as for studying in college.) But now he has also come out with his own personal mind mapping software – the iMindMap program.

Computer software does pose some benefits for mind mappers. One, the map can be quite large, if you wish. With a paper mind map, you are limited by the size of the paper. The software could feature pre-set symbols (as opposed to you inventing symbols of your own.) You can also change the organization of your mind map even after it has been drawn. Web or desktop files can be linked to map nodes. You can email the map to other people or simply post it on your website. There are map templates available nowadays which you could use if you don’t want to start from scratch. A mind map made with software can feature as high a level of detail as you wish. If you create a large map, you can search it. With all these advantages, the popularity of mind mapping software has definitely risen – one estimate is that 60,000 people per month try out the mind mapping software sites.

Tony Buzan markets his own software product as THE one program that can duplicate the effectiveness of the traditional hand-drawn mind maps. Its key features (according to Buzan) are: “unlimited visual variety, portability, freedom, brain friendliness, and effectiveness.” But if you want to explore other possibilities, Wilipedia has a list of 61 programs besides Buzan’s here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Mind_Mapping_software

The Importance of Listening

Bad listening habits are observed by people around us on a daily basis – and even we may be guilty of practicing them as well. When we listen to a speaker, do we often reject the subject out of hand as being “not interesting enough?” Or do we pass judgement on the speaker based on his mannerisms or delivery, thus not paying attention to the content of his speech? On the other hand, we might get too carried away by the topic of the speech and fail to be critical listeners. Do we listen mainly for facts, or do we predominantly look for testimonials or even entertainment instead? Do we attempt to outline the entire content of the speech? Are we just pretending to pay attention to the speaker? Do we permit distractions to prevent us from listening? Do we dodge difficult portions of the speech? Do highly emotional trigger words have the ability to agitate us to the point that we become very hostile? And do we just daydream throughout the speech, wasting both our time and that of the speaker’s?

Bad habits such as these prevent us from taking advantage of someone’s efforts to communicate to us. And bad listening habits are also responsible for creating terrible mind maps. How can you create a mind map that makes sense to you if you were not able to listen to the flow of the speaker’s ideas? How can you know where one idea links up with another to form a certain relationship if you fail to listen well? And if you do not know how to listen well, how can you learn to communicate the same ideas to other people when they ask you about it?

A mind map is only as good as the creator’s ability to form relationships between concepts. To understand relationships between concepts, you have to listen closely and find out where one relationship ends and another begins. And to become a good speaker yourself, you must first be able to listen to how the source of your knowledge imparted his ideas then attempt to replicate the process. And part of replicating that process is creating a good mind map on which you can base your own presentation.

The ARCURRC Model of Listening

Buzan outlines the steps of the listening process in his ARCURRC model. Looking through this model allows you to zero in on any of the steps that you may be deficient in or experiencing problems in so that you can attempt to improve your listening habits. The ARCURRC model is broken down into seven steps, namely: Assimilation, Recognition, Comprehension, Understanding, Retention, Recall, and Communication (or Use.)

Assimilation pertains to the joint physical capacity of your ears and your brain to hear and grasp the sounds in your environment. If you feel that you might have a problem with assimilation, it might help if you were to undergo a thorough hearing exam to rule out problems with your hearing. Even people who have no doubts about their ability to hear and grasp sounds might find it beneficial to have such an exam done since they would then definitely know if they are at the normal level – and if they can surpass that level.

Recognition talks about the capacity of your mind to decode sounds and their meaning which has been received by your ears. It gives a base level at which your mind can identify a particular sound as being caused by a certain object – such as words coming from a person, music coming from a radio, or the sound of an engine being revved up. Recognition is an ability we develop quite quickly in early childhood but that we may fail to practice as we grow up because we tend to “tune out” background sounds. You can keep your power of recognition if you keep trying to identify the source and nuances of different sounds – practice makes perfect.

Comprehension is the capacity of your mind to precisely interpret the information that is fed to it. Some people might have a problem with the internal structures connecting their hearing apparatus to their brain, which would explain why they find it hard to comprehend sounds and their meaning. It could also be traced to a problem within the brain itself. This would require a diagnosis by a doctor.

Understanding is concerned with the ability of your mind to form a relationship between information that has undergone assimilation, recognition and comprehension to previously-absorbed knowledge that is now stored in its memory banks. Good listeners try to continuously stay alert about their level of understanding and improve on this skill.

Retention indicates the capacity of your brain to keep previously-heard knowledge in its memory banks. If you find it hard to retain information, you might want to work on your capacity to understand. This would entail structuring and restructuring concepts as they are being communicated to you. In the end, you will be able to find it easier to store information in your memory – or improve your retention.

Recall is also an aspect of memory, as we previously mentioned, and represents the capacity of your mind to draw out stored knowledge from its memory banks. You improve recall by structuring ideas in better ways as you absorb them, just like when you want to improve retention.

The last phase of the listening process is Communication, or Use. In this stage, the information which you have assimilated, recognized, comprehended, understood and retained is then recalled and may be employed for delivering your own message to other people. You communicate with other people either through spoken, written, or representational means. If you want to talk to yourself – yes, this is also Communication – you simply think. A good listener can eventually become a good communicator to other people as well.

As we said before, it is important to have good listening skills if you want to produce good mind maps. A good listener is able to absorb the content of a speaker’s message more effectively, can comprehend such ideas better, and is in a better position to create a good mind map since he knows how the different ideas are interrelated to one another based on the speaker’s presentation and on how he connects the speaker’s ideas to the knowledge in his own memory. The mind map that results from this will make more sense not only to the person creating it but also to the people who will have a chance to look at it.

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